Set pieces prove to be Japan’s undoing in Women’s World Cup final loss

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Japan was clearly second best from the first whistle to the last on Sunday. The United States came out with a purpose and looked like a team of destiny while rolling to a 5-2 victory at BC Place Stadium. All night, most of the 53,341 fans chanted USA, USA, USA. Japan had never played in such a hostile and roaring venue with so many spectators cheering against the Nadeshiko.

Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday and the entire U.S. starting lineup played on another level, scoring four goals in the opening 16 minutes.

Set pieces ultimately proved Japan’s undoing.

“In the set pieces, they were very meticulous,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said.

Japan, which won the 2011 World Cup final over the U.S., usually controls the play, dictates what the opposition is going to do and counterattacks. But U.S. coach Jill Ellis had her players taking the game to Japan. The first of Lloyd’s hat-trick goals — less than three minutes into the game — had the crowd erupt in huge ovation and boisterous cheers.

Japan was easily overwhelmed and whatever tactical plan Sasaki had, it didn’t work. The U.S. swarmed Japan and never let up. Golden Ball winner Lloyd scored her second just five minutes in, and it was evident that this was going to be a special match for the United States, and there wasn’t anything Japan could do about.

Normally a team that excels on set piece play, Japan had no chance on them on Sunday. The U.S. did their homework and had tactics that Japan had never seen before. It was difficult for Japan to mark the U.S. players and Japan crumbled under pressure.

“They tried new things on the set plays that we never saw in the tournament and we didn’t handle well with that,” Japan goal-scorer Yuki Ogimi said. “They repeated that effort three times and I think that was the ability that we couldn’t handle well from set plays.”

Japan captain Aya Miyama and her teammates were shocked and not expecting a surge of Red, White, and Blue to overwhelm them.

“We didn’t expect that first 15 minutes,” she said. “It was hard and tough, but we came back and I think we played well.”

Defender Azusa Iwashimizu was disastrous on the night, playing large roles in each of the first three U.S. goals. She missed the ball on the corner-kick pass that found Lloyd on the first goal, failed to cover Lloyd on the second tally, and booted the ball dangerously up in the air on Holiday’s goal. The last was quite possibly the most suspect. Japan head coach Norio Sasaki pulled Iwashimizu from the game for Homare Sawa in the 33 minute.

By that time it was already too late for Japan.

Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was a candidate for the Golden Glove award for the bestgGoalkeeper at the World Cup. Hope Solo won thanks to her play and votes from the FIFA Technical Study Group. Kaihori was caught from the midfield line and easily chipped by Lloyd on the U.S. midfielder’s third goal, one of the most brilliant of the World Cup. Kaihori was in tears after the match.

Ogimi had a great individual effort to get Japan on the score-sheet before halftime. However, by the time Japan settled into the match and looked comfortable playing football, it was well in hand for the U.S. and out of reach for Japan.

On Sunday, Sasaki elected to go with the same starting eleven that defeated England 2-1 in the semifinals. He made a pair of substitutions before the half in an effort to boost some life into his squad, who trailed 4-0 at the time.

Ogimi and Miyama talked briefly about Sasaki’s effort to lift his teams spirits during the interval.

“We needed goals and he told us to press forward and also to play in their side, and have more players involved in the attack,” Ogimi said.

Miyama added: “He said the first half is gone so we need to make sure it’s a new game, so we tried.”

Japan was given a momentary lifeline early in the second half when U.S. defender Julie Johnston headed the ball past Hope Solo. Japan cut the deficit to 4-2 and it seemed like they might make a game of it for the second half.

But as with many things Japan did, the U.S. had a quick response that took the life out of Japan. Tobin Heath scored two minutes later and restored a three-goal advantage for the Stars and Stripes. Japan did play competitively for the duration of the second half. However, the poor start that Sasaki and his team had put them in a massive hole that they could never climb out of.

Lloyd was captain clutch and she performed a match for the ages, becoming the first player to score a hat trick in a Women’s World Cup final. Japan came up against a determined freight train and it rolled through Vancouver and a shocked Japan team. The World Cup now belongs to the United States.

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Scott Parker makes three changes as Tom Cairney, Tim Ream and Bobby Decordova-Reid start.

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)

Villa are unchanged from the team which beat Sheffield United last time out.


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

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Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

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Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

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When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip and captain Jordan Henderson is also not fit to feature. Thiago Alcantara could make his first Premier League start for the Reds.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

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Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Kante to Man United; Dest to Barcelona

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In the latest transfer news N’Golo Kante to Manchester United is reported, while USMNT right back Sergino Dest to Barcelona is almost complete.

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Let’s take a look at some of the latest juicy rumors as we’re in the final week of the transfer window.


Kante to Manchester United couldn’t really happen… could it!?

N’Golo Kante is still among the finest holding midfielders in the world, which is why this report from the Daily Mirror seems particularly outlandish.

That said, Kante, 29, has been linked with a move away from Chelsea for most of this transfer window as the French central midfielder continues to be a man in demand. Per the report, Kante would have to take a pay-cut on his $385,000 per week wages.

Frank Lampard and Chelsea know that Kante’s value is extremely high, on and off the pitch, right now and they will also know his value may be at its peak. At times over the last 12 months he hasn’t quite been himself but he’s still been consistently excellent.

Is it time for Chelsea to cash in on Kante to help offset their incredible $300 million spending spree this summer?

Pretty much everyone who watches Chelsea knows this would be a bad idea. If you think Chelsea’s defending has been bad, think how bad it will be without Kante plugging as many gaps as he can in front of the defense. Chelsea fans everywhere are shuddering right now.

Kante to Manchester United would make sense for the Red Devils who still look badly imbalanced and need a destructive holding midfielder to get their dangerous attacking quartet of Rashford, Greenwood, Martial and Fernandes in the game more.

We would all be extremely surprised if Chelsea sell Kante to a direct rival, but stranger things have happened.

Sergino Dest to Barcelona almost complete

USMNT right back Sergino Dest to Barcelona is edging closer as the Dutch-American defender is said to have agreed personal terms with Barca.

Dest, 19, was chased by both Bayern Munich and Barcelona but his chosen the latter after Ajax agreed a $26.7 million fee with Barcelona.

Per a report from Sky Italy, Dest has agreed a five-year contract at Barcelona and will travel to Spain to complete the deal.

With Nelson Semedo sold to Wolves, Barcelona need a new right back and new head coach Ronald Koeman looks set to make Dest the first signing he has chosen. While manager of the Dutch national team Koeman wanted Dest to switch allegiances from the USMNT but he stuck with the nation he has played for throughout his youth international career despite being born in the Netherlands.

Dest will get plenty of opportunities to play at Barcelona and it will be intriguing to track his development.

Chelsea issue Pulisic injury update; Mendy debut?

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Pulisic injury update has arrived, as the USMNT star is edging ever closer to a return to action for Chelsea.

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The American winger, 22, injured his hamstring in the FA Cup final at the start of August and recently suffered a small setback as he tried to be ready for Chelsea’s opening game of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s League Cup fourth round clash at London rivals Tottenham on Tuesday, Frank Lampard has the latest Pulisic injury update as new signing Hakim Ziyech is on a similar path.

“Mendy and Chilwell are in the squad for tomorrow,” Lampard said. “They’re fit and we will see whether they start or not. Ziyech and Pulisic are not far away. They are still in their recovery stage so it’s too early for them both.”

It seems like Pulisic could be in line to play his first Premier League minutes of the season when Chelsea host Crystal Palace on Saturday (watch live, 7:30am ET).

This is good news for Chelsea and the USMNT, but also shows that Lampard is being cautious when it comes to the USMNT winger, just like he said he would be when asked last week.

“There’s always a concern about a player’s fitness when the history says there’s been some injuries. Last season we did have them with Christian, I was questioned many times on him, when he did and didn’t play,” Lampard said.  “Of course, when you look at a player with his recent record, you’re trying to find the right balance of getting the best out of him, which we saw in big periods last year, and making sure you don’t overcook him and leave him susceptible to injury.

“Particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance. It’s a fine line. We’re working on that and Christian’s also very open to that. He wants to play, he’s so hungry to play and he’s very nearly fit now, but it’s certainly something we have to manage with him this season. We’ve all seen the talent and it’s something we want to get right. I’m not saying it’s a fundamental, chronic issue because it’s not, but we want to get as many minutes out of Christian – the really great Christian that we saw lots of last season – on the pitch.”

Pulisic was given the No. 10 jersey over the offseason and Lampard is counting on him to repeat his incredible form during ‘Project Restart’ as he ripped opposition defenses apart.

With Kai Havertz and Timo Werner settling in, plus Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount all scoring in the comeback 3-3 draw at West Brom on Saturday, Lampard has a lot of attackng options. Pulisic should be his first-choice winger, though.

Focusing on his new first-choice goalkeeper, it seems like that will be new signing Edouard Mendy.

Lampard has been very impressed with the Senegalese goalkeeper during his first few days as a Chelsea player and he could make his debut against Tottenham.

“The early signs and the interactions as a man and also on the training pitch have been very positive,” Lampard said. “He’s settled in very well in those few days and we’ve made him very welcome. It’s competition, we know that. He’s a good goalkeeper, we know a lot about him, and we will see how we go.”

Chelsea are getting players back to full fitness and with Mendy set to make his debut and Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell now up to speed and Ziyech on the way, Lampard is close to having all of his new signings playing together for the first time.

That, plus the eagerly-awaited arrival of Pulisic, is great news for Chelsea.